Tom Cotton has no plans to let up on the Kavanaughcalypse, and in fact wants to broaden responsibility for it — perhaps a little too eagerly. In an interview with Hugh Hewitt this morning, Cotton accused Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer of masterminding a smear campaign against Brett Kavanaugh in an attempt to derail his confirmation to the Supreme Court. Republicans have been accusing Schumer all along, but Cotton adds in a specific co-conspirator — former US Attorney Preet Bharara, who is not only a critic of Donald Trump but who also worked for Schumer at one point.
Cotton uses Christine Blasey Ford’s former roommate and character witness, Monica McLean, to connect some dots. Or so Cotton thinks:
HH: Is there any doubt in your mind, Senator Cotton, that this was planned long before it was unveiled? And by that, I mean the leak of Dr. Ford’s letter, I don’t know who did it, but I believe it was part of a campaign that was set up to occur exactly when it did. Do you agree with me?
TC: Hugh, I believe the Schumer political operation was behind this from the very beginning. We learned last week that a woman named Monica McLean was Ms. Ford’s roommate, and she was one of the so-called beach friends who encouraged Ms. Ford to go to Dianne Feinstein and the partisan Democrats on the Judiciary Committee. Well, it just turns out, it just so happens that Monica McLean worked for a Preet Bharara, the former U.S. Attorney in Manhattan, now a virulent anti-Trump critic on television and former counsel to Chuck Schumer. So I strongly suspect that Chuck Schumer’s political operation knew about Ms. Ford’s allegations as far back as July and manipulated the process all along to include taking advantage of Ms. Ford’s confidences and directing her towards left-wing lawyers who apparently may have violated the D.C. code of legal ethics and perhaps may face their own investigation by the D.C. Bar.
McLean, readers will recall, came into the Kavanaughcalypse in a couple of ways. She initially got mentioned in a sworn statement given by Ford’s ex-boyfriend that contradicted Ford’s testimony in the September 27th Senate Judiciary hearing that she never coached anyone on taking a polygraph. The boyfriend told Judiciary that Ford had coached McLean, presumably while applying for a position in the FBI. McLean denied that publicly, but then got named by the Wall Street Journal as the person who “pressured” former Ford friend Leland Keyser to change her testimony in order to support Ford’s allegation.
So McLean definitely belongs in the story … but does Bharara? The Bharara theory has been floating around the ether for a few days now. There’s just one problem with it — Bharara emphatically denies having any link to McLean. He denied a connection when Erick Erickson mentioned it last week, and Bharara blasted Cotton this morning for expounding the theory in Hugh’s interview:
Hey @TomCottonAR Monica McLean never worked for me. I couldn’t pick her out of a lineup & we have zero contact. Kavanaugh’s former deputy Bill Burck, meanwhile, is a close personal friend. You’re not even good at the dumbest of dumb conspiracy theories. @hughhewitt https://t.co/UNMCYuBeZ1
— Preet Bharara (@PreetBharara) October 9, 2018
Phil Kerpen dug up a few statements from several years ago to contradict Bharara:
— Phil Kerpen (@kerpen) October 9, 2018
Bharara pointed out, however, that this doesn’t quite cover the claim, by noting the obvious flaw:
The. Fbi. Did. Not. Work. For. Me.
— Preet Bharara (@PreetBharara) October 9, 2018
These are SDNY press releases about indictments filed as a result of FBI investigations, but McLean’s name isn’t listed as the PIO for SDNY. She’s the PIO for the FBI. In that capacity, not only did McLean never work for Bharara, it’s highly likely that she never had contact with him at all — as Bharara has insisted all along. McLean would have worked with the PIOs in the SDNY office to coordinate statements, and that’s about it. Bharara would have had more contact with actual investigators than with FBI public-relations personnel.
That doesn’t necessarily mean that the Schumer-Bharara theory is completely debunked (see note below), but … it certainly puts a big hole in the linkages necessary for it to work. On top of that, Cotton offers no evidence other than these supposed linkages to make the allegation of a grand smear conspiracy. In that, it sounds a lot like the same kind of prove-yourself-innocent allegations that most of us found so objectionable over the last two weeks.
It should be enough to point out the Democrats’ embrace of McCarthyist tactics and their attempt to destroy the norms of due process without emulating them. Cotton promises to emphasize that over the next few weeks as voters make up their minds in the midterms:
HH: Now when we have a summing up of the consequences of this in four weeks at the polls, I don’t believe Americans are going to forget. I think they’re going to vote to make sure Mitch McConnell remains the leader in the Senate, and Kevin McCarthy the new speaker in the House. Do you agree with me that this lasts, that this left a mark on American politics?
TC: Yes, Hugh, I think most Americans, Republicans, but as well as independents and some sensible Democrats in places like Arkansas are appalled by the left wing mobs that Chuck Schumer and the Senate Democrats whipped up over the last three weeks. I traveled to New Jersey last week, Hugh, to campaign for my good friend, Jay Webber, a Republican nominee for Congress in Northern New Jersey, in a seat Rodney Frelinghuysen is retiring from. The single biggest applause line of the night was for Brett Kavanaugh and for standing up to the House Democrats who are already threatening to investigate and impeach not only Donald Trump, but Brett Kavanaugh as well. So what the Senate Democrats have awoken across the country in Senate races, now the House Democrats are bringing into their own races by threatening to investigate and impeach a fine man and someone who will be a stellar justice, and I think there’s going to be a consequence for those Democrats in four weeks from today in the polls. But remember, Hugh, voting has already started in a lot of places, and our people are starting to go out and vote to show their revulsion at the left wing mob tactics.
The left-wing mob tactics speak for themselves, as does the behavior of Senate Democrats in the Judiciary hearings, from Senator Departacus and Senator Boof on down. Let’s not distract and detract from that record by speculating on conspiracies without evidence.
Update: Why doesn’t it mean it’s completely debunked? Because it’s impossible to prove the negative in the absence of evidence. We can’t prove that Bharara had no involvement in this vague conspiracy theory, just like we can’t prove that Kavanaugh didn’t run gang-rape rings in high school. There’s no evidence that either is true, however, which should be enough to ignore both claims.